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Refugees with Correct ID Losing Out to Boat Arrivals

by Gemma Jones — The Daily Telegraph, May 25, 2012.

Posted: Monday, June 11, 2012 at 08:40 PM UT


Majid Hana is trying to get his relatives to Australia.
Photo: Andrew Brownbill | Source: The Daily Telegraph

A REFUGEE trying to bring his relatives to Australia under a special humanitarian visa program - which is currently being overrun by boat arrivals - says he is being rejected at "the front door".

Majid Hana's seven family members are Iraqi Chaldean Catholics - one was widowed when her husband was killed by extremists in their home country.

They are currently split between Greece and Syria, with four members, including twin four-year-old boys, in strife-torn Damascus.

It emerged at a parliamentary estimates hearing this week only 655 special humanitarian visas had been issued this year compared to almost 8000 nine years ago.

The visas are part of a quota that is now being almost exhausted by refugees who arrive by boat.

"People are coming through boats, we are coming through the right direction, we come by Australian rules, by the government, through the front door," Mr Hana said. "We apply overseas. They come in the boat and they process them straight away.

"We wait so many years to get an interview (but) we still don't get to interview, even."

More than 20,000 people sought a special humanitarian visa last financial year. The visas allow refugees such as Mr Hana, who said he fled Iraq because Chaldean Catholics face bombings, murder and kidnapping, to be reunited in Australia.

His relatives include Kareem Habeeb Baaho and his wife Nawal Odeesho Yusef and their twins Loothar and Arthur, who fled to Syria in 2009.

His cousins Samir and Sameh Georgis Hanna fled in 2006 to Greece via Turkey after their father was killed.

Mr Hana who lives in Melbourne, and a female relative in Sydney, have all of their identity paperwork.

"We have all their documents. The people on the boat, we don't know who they are," he said.

Nine out of 10 asylum seekers coming by boat do not have their documentation when they arrive, estimates heard this week.

Many of them throw their passports overboard while travelling to Australia so their real identities and backgrounds are harder to check.

Mr Hana said he had been told by government officials that demand for the special visas far outstripped the number available.

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